Diet & Nutrition

Sugar industry outed in new study claiming it hid damning evidence 50 years ago

Researchers say the sugar industry covered up evidence of the harmful effects of sugar.

By Bettina Tyrrell
Sugar has been cast as the current villain of the food world, when not so long ago it was a childhood staple. Recently we’ve witnessed a rise in the popularity of sugar-free diets and calls for sugar taxes. But, the war against sugar may have started much sooner if the sugar industry hadn’t buried damning research that linked sucrose to heart disease, says a new study.
Researchers from the University of California have assessed internal documents from 1967 which found the International Sugar Research Foundation (ISRF) funded research into the effects of sucrose on cardiovascular health.
The researchers discovered that when the studies from 50 years ago started to highlight the fact that sucrose (sugar) consumption could be linked to heart disease and bladder cancer, the ISRF terminated the project and didn’t publish the ground-breaking results.
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The Guardian explains, in a new paper published in the journal Plos Biology, researchers argue that the terminated study could possibly have had implications for humans and indicates how ISRF downplayed sugar’s role in cardiovascular disease due to commercial interests.
Researcher, Cristin Kearns says: "ISRF’s primary purpose was, and still is as the Sugar Association and the World Sugar Research Organisation, to sell more sucrose. Our previous paper and this one demonstrate that ISRF’s research program was designed to support its business interests at the expense of the public."
While the researchers analysed just two ISRF studies, the ISRF have sponsored more than 300 research projects. This then begs the question, how many times has the sugar industry manipulated or buried scientific evidence?
"ISRF sponsored more than 300 research projects between 1943 and 1972, and its successor organisations continue to fund research,” says Keanrs. "I think it’s safe to say the problem is more widespread than what’s outlined in the paper."
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The sugar industry's respone:

In response to the damaging paper, the ISFR’s successor, the Sugar Association, said in a statement:
"The article we are discussing is not actually a study, but a perspective: a collection of speculations and assumptions about events that happened nearly five decades ago, conducted by a group of researchers and funded by individuals and organisations that are known critics of the sugar industry."
"We reviewed our research archives and found documentation that the study in question ended for three reasons, none of which involved potential research findings: the study was significantly delayed; it was consequently over budget; and the delay overlapped with an organisational restructuring … There were plans to continue the study with funding from the British Nutrition Foundation, but, for reasons unbeknown to us, this did not occur."